Elections ‘free, fair, transparent’

2009-04-23 00:00

The generally high levels of political tolerance observed in KwaZulu-Natal are testimony to a maturing democracy in South Africa, according to former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the Alliance for Peace (AfAP) election observer mission.

“In our opinion nothing that we observed in the past week would significantly adversely affect the outcome or credibility of this election.”

While there were a few incidents of minor political intolerance observed by AfAP teams in the province, Obasanjo said “these were neither systematic nor widespread; rather they were isolated and sporadic. We therefore believe that the process was sufficiently free, fair and transparent so as to reflect the will of the people of the province.

“Furthermore, we commend the IEC for a job well done despite the minor logistical issues noted and we congratulate the people of South Africa and KZN in particular.”

Election Monitoring Network’s (EMN) national co-ordinator, Derrick Marco, said KZN demonstrated a “very good investment of security agencies. Sufficient systems were put into place to deal with every eventuality.”

Looking at the election overall, Marco said that from a civil society perspective EMN is “pretty satisfied” at the way things went.

“Considering the activity at the polling stations and the long queues, the tolerance levels were fantastic. The capacity of this nation to define itself as a long-term democracy is great.”

KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas said there is little doubt the presence of significant numbers of security force personnel from outside the affected areas played a major role in securing largely peaceful elections in KZN.

“In known hotspots such as Pongola, Muden and Macambini, mention was made of police from outside of the area making positive interventions in the face of threat or electoral laws being broken.”

De Haas said most of the complaints she received related to alleged infringements of electoral rules relating to the ban on political canvassing around the polling stations and unauthorised party supporters entering the voting area.

“Allegations of insulting and intimidatory behaviour at the entrance to the voting area were also common.”

Areas from where such reports were received included Aphaphini High School and Nobande School in Sweetwaters and Zezokuhle Primary School in Mpumuza. There were also reports of intimidation of ANC members in Sweetwaters.

De Haas said electoral laws allegedly broken in the presence of the police is a cause for concern.

“Once again it seems that more police may be deployed in urban area polling stations than at remote rural stations where there is far more risk to electoral officers, party agents and voters.”

There were also problems with deploying police after dark as the election deployment had already stretched police resources to the limit.

“It is not acceptable that electoral officials, party agents and, in some cases, voters, should fear for their lives during the evening hours, when the voting is winding up and votes are being counted,” said De Haas.

The lesson for future elections is that there must be systems in place to ensure that police do what they are supposed to do — and that all station commissioners are easily accessible and able to respond to complaints personally, and without delay, given their responsibility as management.

“Although the voting is over, the threat of violence remains, especially during the period that election results are being announced. It is imperative that security forces remain deployed to prevent any violent reactions during this period.”

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